Success starts well before the lunch bell rings. “Get your child involved in making or choosing lunches to help him or her feel more empowered to eat,” says Jaclyn Buonfiglio-Meyer, nutritionist at the Diabetes Education Center at HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston, a member of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth). Taking children grocery shopping with you and giving them healthy choices are a good start. As far as what to pack, she suggests:
• A source of protein, to keep your child feeling full, such as cheese cubes, hummus, roasted chickpeas, cut-up meats, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt or unsalted nuts.
• Adding visual and nutritional punch with a half-cup serving of fruit (whether fresh, canned, dried or pureed) and ample bite-sized vegetables.
• Round it off with a healthy source of carbohydrates (whole-grain bread or pancakes, muffins, crackers or pitas).
What about dessert? “There certainly can be room for dessert, but I would not recommend it on a daily basis,” Buonfiglio-Meyer says.
It’s a good idea to introduce new foods at home before surprising children with something unfamiliar at school, she adds. If you discover food unopened or untouched in the lunchbox after school, don’t panic; find out why. It may be that their fresh apples turned mushy (try freeze-dried ones), their food was touching (get a container with dividers) or the portions were too big. “As long as they have a nutritious breakfast, dinner and snacks, your child will stay well-nourished even if they don’t have a large lunch.”
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